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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz


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Emotive Connection      Audio     Operations    Extras     The Movie     Equipment




The Fox Blu-ray War Bash 2008

"The perfect gift for Dad this Father's Day" - so says Fox for their long-awaited series of five – count them – big budget war films from their vast catalog: Battle of Britain (1969), A Bridge Too Far (1977), The Longest Day (1962), Patton (1970), and The Sand Pebbles (1966). Except for The Sand Pebbles, these are all WWII films. Three of them show off a huge cast of luminaries, but only one (A Bridge Too Far) does it without undue posturing. All of them have outstanding photography: even the least successful as a script (Battle of Britain) has some terrific aerial photography.

Between the five, they scored nine Academy Awards, which is less impressive when you consider that seven of them were for one picture alone (
A Bridge Too Far, which had zero nominations, has become, for me, one of the more rewatchable WWII movies, and has one of the most engaging film scores composed for the genre. Jerry Goldsmith's score for Patton was rightfully nominated, but lost to – are you sitting down for this – Love Story!

The Longest Day is remarkable for two reasons: it is one of the first films shot in Black & White to be released on Blu-ray! (Bergman's The Seventh Seal jumps to mind as another - there may be a few more) and it is also one of the older films on the new format... and best looking image – all the more surprising considering how bloody awful the SD 2-disc Collector's Edition was. (The previous letterboxed image was sharper, even after zoomed out to full size.) The sound tracks for all of these movies are very good-to-excellent. They may not have the same level of crunch we have come to expect since Saving Private Ryan, but they are convincing all the same, regardless of age. The music tracks for these films are especially clear, invigorating and supportive of the mood.

All of the titles have seen SD-DVD incarnations previously, some very good ones, some with extensive supplements. My comparison of the supplements from the latest SD editions and the respective Blu-ray reveals that all of the extra features – with the exception of
A Bridge Too Far - are ported over to High Def. Except for the occasional trailer, there are NO high-def extra features to be found on any of these new releases. Two of them (A Bridge Too Far and Battle of Britain) have no extra features at all, unless you count trailers (which I don't.) Battle of Britain SD edition, by the way, is the sole movie of this quintet not too have received the 2-disc treatment in 480i. The BRDs of Patton and The Longest Day are 2-disc affairs, but Fox opted for a single 50 GB disc to accommodate all but "Road Show" version of the 2-disc material from their most recent SD of The Sand Pebbles.

Battle of Britain [Blu-ray]


(Guy Hamilton, 1969)







Review by Leonard Norwitz



Theatrical: MGM

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Pictures Home Entertainment



Region: A

Runtime: 132 min

Chapters: 28

Size: 25 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case: 1 disc

Release date: June 3rd, 2008



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: MPEG2 @ 18 MBPS



English DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless, English DD 5.1 (With the Complete Sir William Walton), English Mono, French DD 5.1



English, English SDH, Spanish, Cantonese and Korean






The Film: 6
The story of the Battle of Britain is a familiar tale of courage in the face of overwhelming odds. It is the story of the Spitfire, a more maneuverable fighter plane than the Messerschmitt Bf 109 or whatever else the Germans had at their disposal especially during the latter part of 1940.

An interesting comparison can be found HERE

It is also the story of the pilots on both sides: those fighting for their lives and those determined to bring the glory of Nazi Germany to the rest of the world. By the summer of 1940, Nazi Germany had completely overrun Europe and was poised to cross the channel to invade England but hesitated. Perhaps he was deliberating the eventual invasion of Russia, which he felt he would have had to do so sooner or later. At the start of the air invasion, the German fighters outnumbered the British by about 4:1, and the Germans had a much larger pool of pilots to throw at them as well. The British could turn out planes faster than they could get trained pilots to fly

The Battle of Britain is by any account the least interesting of the five Fox war films released on Blu-ray this week. It's not really a bad movie so much as it is disjointed and surprisingly static. There is too much of the disaster genre breathing in its bones, the strained relationship between Plummer and York feels forced and calculated, and the other attempts to show the pilots' home life equally tacked on. Interior shots, like the various war rooms, look unconvincing. By contrast, the aerial photography is excellent, though there are too many shots of pilots in extreme close-up with their masks on looking furtively for attacking enemy planes. Even this remarkable footage starts to seem repetitive as one attack group after another ris mustered in defense.


Image: 8 (7-8.5/8)
The score of 8 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs on a ten-point scale. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

We can expect a certain level of shake in the aerial footage, though this usually adds to the illusion. But for most of the rest of the film, the image is one of the better in Fox's quintet of war films on Blu-ray (roughly on a par with Patton, but better than Sand Pebbles). The color is natural and the contrast brilliant in keeping with the
sort of lighting often employed in those days. I found no evidence of age worth worrying about: no dirt, scratches or other distractions, except for some grain in the sky and a tendency for outlining against the sky which you can see at the back Michael Caine's head. In any case, the image is certainly better than MGM's SD in the ways we have come to expect from Blu-ray.


SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM



SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM



SD TOP vs. Blu-ray BOTTOM










Audio & Music: 7/9
I finally have what should be a pretty decent, though not entirely finalized, surround system in place. It has not yet been professionally calibrated. That may be a few weeks off, so take my comments in this regard with that in mind – and if there is the need for qualification, I shall post in the Update section. In any case, I feel I am much closer to the intentions of the audio mix than ever before.

The music score is especially well presented. Compared to what's possible today, machine gun noises and bomb blasts are not nearly as convincing; in fact they suffer somewhat in comparison to the score, likely due to the original mix being mono (included as an option.)

Operations: 7
After loading, the disc goes straight to the main menu, which has almost nothing in it, so there is little to object to.

Extras: 0
No bonus features of any denomination.



Bottom line: 6
The movie itself is not a sufficient reason for purchase but the aerial battles look great on a big screen, aided by the higher resolution of Blu-ray. The music track is exemplary.


Leonard Norwitz








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